Saturday, August 12, 2017

New Zealand Flax Reinforced Paper Bags instead of Plastic Bags?

The media has been giving a lot of attention to people advocating cutting down or eliminating plastic bag use when we go to the supermarket (in particular). The main problem I have with this is it implies going to the supermarket would somehow become ecologically sound if only we didn't use plastic bags. The only real solution to the environmental crisis, local food production that marginalizes transportation of people and goods does not get a mention. Of course not, why would the media bite the hand of food and transport advertisers (or taxpayers in the case of state media) that feed them... anyway that would be too much trouble, we're all too busy propping up the system we're addicted to.

Still I couldn't help thinking of New Zealand Flax (Phormium tenax, Phormim cookianum) as a substitute when hearing an expert explain how resistant to breakdown plastic is in the environment. There was once a commercial Flax fiber industry in New Zealand, mainly for rope production, but the product was considered inferior to sisal or manila because it swelled when wet and wore badly(1), still it will survive considerable exposure to water as evidenced by the fact that Maori made fishing nets 1000 meters long out of it. I used to tie stakes for plants with strips of flax torn straight from the plant, they lasted many months outside.

But perhaps this somewhat inferior quality is what we want with disposable bags, people could put them in compost or use directly as mulch in the garden. Probably paper bags reinforced with flax fiber for strength would be best. 

Flax can be grown in a wide range of conditions that might not be good for much else , Phormium cookianum grows on vertical coastal cliffs. 

There are probably a number of other "second-rate" fiber crops that would also decompose quickly. 

1. Encylopaedia of New Zealand Vol 1. 1966. pp 704-705


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